At the Rock

Maku's grief was now beyond tears.

He picked himself up and crossed to the weatherbeaten rock he had liked to climb on when he was a child. The vicious storms had carved otherworldly shapes into the stone, which was now so smooth that sunlight would bounce off it in glistening strips.

Maku was ashamed. He was fifteen, he was better than this. Grief was an emotion he wasn't allowed. His first priority was his father's tribe. To ensure that either he became the next leader, or that the one who would, should follow honourably in his father's footsteps. There was no more time for sentimentality or regret. Now was the time for action.

When he saw the shaman crossing the camp towards him, he turned his head away, loath to have social interaction with anyone. But she wasn't deterred, and came right up to the foot of the rock. Maku could not avoid her olive-skinned face or her jewel-bright eyes for long - he looked up from his moody solitude as an indication she should talk.

"Maku - can I have a word?"

"If you must."

Nightsong took a seat among one of the lower layers of the rock, but didn't look at him. She was staring across the boundless plain to the east.

"I need to talk to you, Maku," she said slowly. "You need to know why your father died."

"I gored him with a horn," snorted Maku, shivering with revulsion. "I know why he died."

"No, you don't. Not the full story."

"And you do, do you? He told you the full story, but not his own son? I find that a bit hard to believe."

"But he did, Maku. He was afraid that you weren't old enough to receive the burden -"

"My father wasn't afraid of anything. And you are but two years my senior, and not even related to him! You have nothing to do with him! Why are you interfering like this?"

Maku's voice had risen to a shout, but he seemed to run out of words. Nightsong waited a minute or so before she continued.

"I think you're forgetting," said Nightsong silkily, "that if it wasn't for me, you'd be strung up with bamboo rope in the centre of the camp, awaiting trial for murder. And you would have been convicted. No amount of testimony about assisted suicide would have saved your eyes. If you don't listen to what I have to say -"

"Are you threatening me?" said Maku quietly.

"No, of course not," sighed Nightsong resignedly. "Garamun would never have forgiven me if you came to harm over his death."

"And since when have you been on first name terms?" said Maku bitingly.

"Since we both started having the same dreams."

This answer was so unexpected Maku was struck dumb. He sat with his mouth open for a full five seconds, then closed it again as he realised how gormless he must look.

"So you've got the green rot as well?"

"No, I have not got the green rot. The dreams were much too vivid and clear to be hallucinations induced by the illness."

"But my father wouldn't kill himself because of dreams!" snorted Maku, starting to snigger uncontrollably. "He's stood before herds of charging buffalo without batting an eyelid!"

"You do not understand the nature of these dreams, then."


"They are so real it is as if we are transported to the place we dream of. We see herds of buffalo running where they should not, so hundreds of tribes go hungry. We see the darkness roll in with the clouds. We see friend turn on friend. Whole tribes are decimated by the fighting."

"Anything else?" said Maku unconcernedly.

"A giant eagle foretells of a small group of people that can drive off the demons of the deep. Tells us that we are part of the struggle, and we must take action. And if we don't, our entire world will be smothered by the darkness."

Maku listened to the silence for a few seconds, then said:

"Sounds like a fancy folk tale, if you ask me."

He jumped the ten feet to the ground lightly, then walked off, thoughts tumbling in his head.

His father had disappointed him. The bravest man in Maku's life had finally been consumed by a few vivid nightmares. Maku felt empty and useless. The grief returned in sickening waves as Maku heard the shaman's words in his head. It didn't occur to him once that he didn't know the whole story.

He snorted as he remembered his father talking to him in the night when he awoke from his own nightmares. Telling him not to be scared. That the demons of his own mind would never manifest in the real world ...

Now, Maku didn't know what to believe.

The End

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